Macmillan Cancer Support has revealed that there are now an estimated 101,000 cancer carers in Wales supporting their loved ones with cancer.
This estimated figure was revealed in a new report – Under pressure – The growing strain on cancer carers – which was published today.
The report also revealed that around 110,000 people in the UK are caring for a parent with cancer, which could include everything from taking care of finances to washing and dressing them, whilst also looking after their own children.
The report also says that almost 1 in 10 UK cancer carers are “sandwich caring.”
Most of them (89%) are also juggling a job as well as caring for someone with cancer.
The report, based on research commissioned by YouGov, shows that the majority (70%) of all cancer carers are now aged 45 or over. In 2011, over half (57%) were in this age group.
The overall number of cancer carers has risen by nearly a third (31%) to almost 1.5 million in the last five years.
Macmillan warns of the debilitating effect caring for someone with cancer can have on a person’s life. Up to 7 in 10 (70%) of all cancer carers experience mental health problems as a result of caring, including stress, anxiety and depression. Caring is also having a greater impact on the physical health of those who care such as exhaustion and insomnia. Additionally, almost one in three carers (30%) say their income or household finances are affected and four in 10 (43%) of those currently in employment report that caring affects their working lives.
While carers are carrying out more complex tasks and putting in more hours of care than ever before, worryingly more than half (55%) are not getting any additional support – a figure that has not improved from 2011.
Many do not see themselves as carers or do not know what support is available. This means they can remain hidden from health and social care professionals who are unaware they are struggling.
Macmillan provides a range of information for carers through its website, information resources and telephone helpline which is staffed by cancer specialists who offer practical, medical, emotional and financial support. The charity is urging cancer carers to get in touch to ensure no one has to cope alone.
The charity relies on fundraising and voluntary donations for 99% of its income, to fund its vital services. Events such as Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on Friday 30 September this year are key to ensuring Macmillan can carry on supporting carers and people affected by cancer.
Paula Hall, Macmillan Carers Support Co-ordinator in Bridgend, said:
“Nobody plans to become a carer – it can just happen. Cancer carers just get on with looking after the person affected by cancer as well as coping with the demands of everyday family life.
“Cancer carers can find themselves being pulled in all directions and they don’t have spare time to think about themselves. There can be an impact on their emotional and physical health but cancer carers can actually feel guilty about this.
“Becoming a cancer carer can have a massive financial impact on lives and increases the pressure that they are already under. Financial advice and support is the most frequently asked question that cancer carers ask me about.
“Sometimes they are juggling jobs too – and unfortunately not everyone has an employer who can empathise and support the cancer carer.”
Susan Morris, Head of Services at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:
“We know that caring for someone affected by cancer can be tough and it’s saddening to hear of the growing strain on cancer carers. It’s important that carers in Wales have access to advice and support.
“At Macmillan we offer online, telephone and face-to-face support. Our telephone support line is free and is staffed by cancer specialists who offer practical, medical, emotional and financial support. We have Cancer Information Support Services in some hospitals in Wales and our information and support and our welfare benefits advisers offer face-to-face support people to affected by cancer.
“We’re concerned that people living in rural Wales should be supported too and we have and two mobile units that visit some of our most isolated communities to offer face-to-face information and support.”
“At Macmillan we believe that cancer carers should not feel isolated and alone.”
Macmillan offers information and advice to people caring for someone with cancer on its website www.macmillan.org.uk/carers and support line 0808 808 00 00.